Former telecom minister A. Raja has praised Manmohan Singh in supporting him during allotment of 2G spectrum in 2008. However, he has claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was highly influenced by the corporate lobby Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that was controlled by Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal.
“The patronage shown by him to me in relation to 2G licensing and spectrum allocation was totally justified and correct as per policy and law,” wrote Raja in his tell-all book ‘2G Saga Unfolds’. “His concern for national interest to be foremost is proved beyond doubt by the support and mentorship he had provided for every step I took.”
However, he has accused senior officials of the PMO of lobbying for interests of large incumbent 2G operators. He writes that on November 2, 2007 he wrote a letter to the prime minister apprising him of decisions taken in relation to the 2G licensing/spectrum.
“Co-incidentally, a letter (Annexure-II) from the Prime Minister’s Office addressed to me was also simultaneously on its way and delivered at 7 pm on the same day to my 2A, Motilal Nehru Marg residence,” writes Raja. “Upon reading the letter it becomes apparent that its contents match the representation by COAI in this context.”
He points out that it was only on 5th November (three days later as noted in the PMO records) that both the Joint Secretary (Telecom) and the Director (Telecom) working in the PM’s Office were shown the letters between him and the PM.
“This made me wonder if this letter was ever drafted by the PMO,” writes Raja.
In the letter, the prime minister had raised issues related to allotting 2G spectrum to new operators as well as to the incumbent players.
Later, when Raja met the prime minister, he agreed with him. “The Prime Minister after listening to my explanations patiently and carefully made it clear to me that his letter was motivated by the news in the press about wrongdoings in the Ministry and the apprehensions raised by the COAI. I got his approval to go ahead with the process as indicated in my letters. I subsequently asked the Ministry officials to expedite the issuance of licenses.”